Social Use of Streets by Older Adults

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Easily accessible social places are invaluable to older adults who seek social interaction or whose physical environments may be limited. Previous studies have conceptualized the interior spaces for social activities (e.g., “third places”), as playing a crucial role in personenvironment interactions in later life. This study explored space outside of the home by interviewing older adults about their informal social lives with their neighbors. The interviews were conducted with 50 older adults across 26 social locations in Seoul, Korea. A pattern emerged that while parks served as open inclusive social places, neighborhood streets were actually preferred by older adults who lived in close proximity. Furthermore, the social gathering locations were not random. Specific configurations of the streets provided social spaces with certain features conducive to social bonding as if they were “temporary mini-parks” for groups of older adults. The older adults selected efficient locations nearby their homes for their group members with mobility limitation to socialize with them, which allowed them to stay autonomous as small groups. The results suggest that how well the older adults could claim or control space mattered more than how much space or amenities they had for their social activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-278
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Asian Sociology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Neighborhood
  • Older adults
  • Park
  • Social interaction
  • Social support
  • Street
  • Territoriality


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